Social Isolation


The lack of meaningful contact with others is a significant risk factor for many health conditions. This lack of interaction is known as social isolation. It can increase the risk for heart disease, infections, depression, and premature cognitive decline. It is also linked to a higher risk for early death. Older adults may be especially at risk for social isolation. They are more likely to have experiences that diminish their social contacts. For example, the death of a spouse or friends and the onset of health problems may impede their ability to socialize. Not only is social isolation bad for health, but it is also costly. It is associated with $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually. That is comparable to the amount Medicare spends for people with arthritis or high blood pressure. 



Social isolation as a public health issue

Public health officials and policymakers should recognize social isolation as a significant public health issue and social determinant of health. They should develop evidence-based strategies to identify, address, and track the problem individually and in the population. 

Screening tools and interventions

Policymakers and the private sector should develop a standardized screening tool to identify individuals experiencing social isolation. This information should be used to develop effective interventions. Both the tool and the interventions should be evidence-based. 

Social isolation assessment and interventions

Medicare, Medicaid, and other payers should reimburse providers for the use of a standardized tool, including during “Welcome to Medicare” and Annual Wellness visits. Payers should also cover evidence-based interventions. 

Social isolation in crisis

During times of crisis, state and local governments and the private sector should use evidence-based tools to identify, monitor, and address social isolation among older adults.